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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Experts gather in Dubai to tackle issues of health and social welfare

A Creative Labs programme by the Dubai government identifies challenges and firms up objectives on health, social welfare

Aisha Miran, assistant secretary general for strategy, management and governance with the Executive Council of Dubai. Here she is pictured at an American University of Sharjah event last year. Anna Nielsen for The National
Aisha Miran, assistant secretary general for strategy, management and governance with the Executive Council of Dubai. Here she is pictured at an American University of Sharjah event last year. Anna Nielsen for The National

Tackling juvenile crime, protecting children from abuse and helping people with mental health problems are among the key aims of a Dubai government strategy set out on Wednesday.

Experts on the front lines dealing with such cases leant their voices to a two-day Creative Labs session held in Dubai with the aim of ensuring the success of government initiatives.

“This helps put together concrete action plans on how we can either accelerate existing initiatives, reach targets by 2021 or discuss challenges and obstacles that hinder us from achieving our aim,” said Aisha Miran, assistant secretary general for strategy, management and governance with the Executive Council of Dubai, which organised the sessions.

‘Safeguard our Kids,’ an initiative handled by the Community Development Authority to provide a secure environment for children, was among eight topics discussed on Wednesday.

“We want to ensure that we have the right mechanisms in place, the right policies, procedures and services to protect a child from abuse,” said Ms Miran.

“But if that child is abused how can we deal with that child? So we have people from different backgrounds, from the security services, social sector talking about how they can ensure rehabilitation and inclusion of the children back into the community.

“We also want to be able to detect cases early and ensure we have a central data base rather than a scattered effort.”

The projects are wide ranging from ‘No going back’ handled by the Dubai Police to deter youth and juvenile crime to ‘Art Everywhere’ that will use art to improve a patient’s sense of wellbeing.

Three hospitals including Hatta, Al Jalila and Latifa will be redecorated with art work to impact the healing process and help the patients’ recovery process.

‘With Hope, Dubai’, on the subject of mental health, was also discussed on Wednesday with a focus on how to spread awareness and remove any stigma linked to mental illness. The sessions were run by Dubai Health Authority and the Community Development Authority.

“We already have a strategy in place but we want to talk about how better to identify mental health risks early on and once diagnosed how can this be treated. How can we make young people aware? We want to bring the health authorities and the community together,” Ms Miran said.

The World Health Organisation listed depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide in March last year with rates rising by more than 18 per cent since 2005.

The illness commonly a high risk factor for suicide, that claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Due to lack of support for mental health combined with the fear of stigma, many do not get the treatment they require to live healthy lives, a WHO report revealed.

The government initiative was backed by health professionals.

“The barriers we face are empowering people to access services. With education we can disseminate more information,” said Dr Yaseen Aslam, consultant psychiatrist and medical director of The Psychiatry and Therapy centre in Dubai Healthcare City.

“Awareness can be spread through such government campaigns, by providing increased resources in schools, colleges and communities, making sure children in schools have access to school counsellors for psychological issues.”

Among the signs to watch for in children are behavioural changes, social isolation and withdrawal, Dr Aslam said.

“Children become more detached and uncommunicative. There may be a sudden deterioration in academic performance,” he said.

The programmes also tackle ways of making Emiratis financially independent.

The ‘Empower Me’ project seeks to enable and encourage UAE nationals to join the work force as entrepreneurs or as employees in the private or public sector.

Previously, similar Creative Lab sessions have resulted in awards such as the Mohammed bin Rashid programme for distinguished students aimed to improve the performance of Emirati students, a popular librarians’ award, ratings for small and medium enterprises, plans for court case directives within a single day.